Don Levinson

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

Long-Time Jeweler Retires, Closes Up Shop In Chicago's Gold Coast

May 15, 2019 - 1:55 pm
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A long-time jeweler is closing his doors after 51 years years in Chicago's Gold Coast.

Don Levinson was destined to be a jeweler.

"My father was in the jewelry business for decades, but I wasn't sure that's what I wanted to do. I was in the Army until 1957. When I graduated from college, I really wanted to do something on my own," he said.

Harry Levinson opened Levinson's Jewelers on Clark Street in 1920 and owned the place for 66 years before his death.

"My father had a very successful business. He gave me a lot of incentive to learn the jewelry business. I was with my dad for 10 years. He was a terrific mentor. He sent me Antwerp, Belgium to buy diamonds," he said.

In 1968, he decided to open up his own shop.

"I bought the place from a man named Bob Martin. Trabert & Hoeffer was originally a chain of seven or eight stores on Park Avenue in New York and in Beverly Hills," Levinson said.

After expanding to Palm Beach, Beverly Hills, Atlantic City and finally Chicago, the company purchased inventory from acclaimed Parisian jewelry Mauboussin, giving birth to one of jewelry’s most historic partnerships.

Chicago's Trabert & Hoeffer first opened on Michigan Avenue and then moved to its current location on Oak Street.

Don Levinson
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"I was kind of in competition with my father," he laughed. "It was a kick doing something in the jewelry business, but not in my father's image. I could've never been successful without him."

Fifty-one years later, at age 85, Levinson has decided to retire and close up shop.

"I'm closing the business because none of my children or grandchildren want to perpetuate Trabert & Hoeffer or be in the jewelry business. One of them is a lawyer, one of them has an MBA doing startups. They want to play golf more, they want to ski," he laughed. "When the kids don't want it, I have to retire. I can't say I'm thrilled about it, but maybe I'll try to play tennis or learn another foreign language." .

Levinson is selling a portion of the iconic jewelry retailer’s inventory. The sale, which includes more than 250 lots spanning the company’s history, will be held on May 15 at 4 p.m. at Hindman’s Chicago headquarters, located at 1338 W Lake St.

Highlights of the auction will include a Retro platinum, diamond and pink tourmaline brooch by Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin ($15,000 to $20,000); a 10.04 carat emerald cut diamond ring ($200,000 to $300,000); a 58.50 carat total weight diamond bracelet.

Don Levinson and Katie Hammond-Guilbault
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"It's such a vast inventory," said Katie Hammond-Guilbault, Hindman, LLC.

"There's a beautiful representative of diamonds. The jewelry business is generational. Some people's grandparents and great grandparents purchased from Mr. Levinson and his father so it's an end of an era."

Levinson said his retirement and the store's closing is bittersweet but said the jewelry business has been a rewarding one.

"The great part of being in the jewelry and diamond business. You get to see clients in their happiest moments, they're getting engaged, they're celebrating anniversaries and birthdays. It's really a joyous experience," he said. "It's a bittersweet transition. I hope I can make life interesting as it has running Trabert & Hoeffer. It's been an exciting, rewarding, fantastic 51 years."

The store, which will close its doors for the final time on June 15, is the last remaining Trabert & Hoeffer location.